September 14, 2010

Notebook: Tressel updates Bucks

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Usually it takes after Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel's opening statement in his weekly press conference before getting to the injury report.

But with a significant injury to starting safety C.J. Barnett in the Buckeyes' win over Miami on Saturday afternoon in the Horseshoe, Tressel got right too it. And the news wasn't good for the Buckeye defense.

"We unfortunately lost C. J. Barnett probably for the season, and C. J. was really playing well," Tressel said Tuesday. "He took advantage of an opportunity in preseason to get a lot of reps when Orhian Johnson had a calf pull and really did well.

"We thought played very well through the first game and three quarters," Tressel continued. "Unfortunately, I think today he'll be having surgery and probably won't have him the rest of the year. Other than that, we should get everyone back."

Johnson was expected during the course of fall camp to be the starting strong safety for the Buckeyes, but after missing a considerable amount of time with injury, Barnett stepped in and won the job.

After Barnett's injury on Saturday it was Johnson that finished the rest of the fourth quarter. However, Tressel said it won't be just Johnson helping the Buckeyes fill in for Barnett.

Barnett was playing well against the Hurricanes and even landed a big hit on Miami standout receiver Leonard Hankerson before falling victim to the knee injury in the second.

Johnson "and Aaron Gant I'm trying to think, and Zach Domicone," Tressel said, "that would probably be the three guys that would figure in on trying to fill the gap for C.J."

The Buckeyes got back defensive end Nathan Williams, who had missed a month during the preseason with a strained knee. Tressel said there are no ill effects for Williams after the Miami game.

"He came out health-wise great. I think he played about 30 snaps," Tressel said. "We were thinking he might play 20, 22, so he exceeded our expectations there and played well, played with a lot of burst. I'd like to think he'll do nothing but get stronger as time goes here."

New personnel considered for special teams

As Miami's Lamar Miller was on his way to the end zone during his 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Tressel sported a look of disgust. Unfortunately for Tressel, but kickoff returns haven't been out of the norm for the Buckeyes' opponents.

Tressel was seemingly frustrated after the game when speaking about the play - which was only one of two returns taken back for scores by the Hurricanes in the game.

After watching the film, Tressel has been able to identify part of the problem the Buckeyes are having on their kickoff coverage team.

"There are different spots on the field where technique has to change," Tressel said. "The first half of the kickoff, for instance, you can avoid (blockers) and get back in your lane. When you get to the second half of the kickoff, you can't avoid and in all three long kickoff returns, our two and their one, there were people in the second half of the play going around blocks, avoiding as opposed to taking on blocks and holding gap integrity and so forth. So what can you do? You can do it right, just like any other play."

While Tressel will never turn his back on putting the best players on the field, the head coach said he feels the importance of using his depth to his advantage by getting fresh players into the game.

However, the coach did maintain they might be retooling their personnel this week for the kickoff coverage unit. Adding players from the starting units, Tressel said, could be a possibility.

"I think if you have depth and you get to play a lot of guys at various positions, then you're more apt to use guys from the starting rotations more," Tressel said.

Team notes

  • Tressel said the team had not considered taking the redshirt off of Etienne Sabino for his help on special teams coverage units.

  • Three guys graded out with winning performances on defense and five did on offense. Justin Boren graded an 86 percent, which is the best score he has received during his time at Ohio State.

  • Starting defensive end Nathan Williams is doing very well health-wise. Tressel said they wanted him to play in the area of 22 plays and he ended up playing 30. He surpassed the expectations and could be back in a full capacity game-time wise next weekend.

  • Despite being named the team's offensive player of the week, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor did not grade out a winning performance.

  • Ohio State has won 41 consecutive games against in-state opponents. Tressel doesn't care. He said in 2002 one catch in the back of the end zone for Cincinnati, an in-state foe, and the Buckeyes may not have an important ring in their trophy case.

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